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Thur Biotech, an Ethiopian biotechnology firm, has secured 172,000 dollars in grants from USAID CATALYZE for its innovative approach to producing biofertilizers.

Thur, which employs bacteria to manufacture biofertilizers, clinched the grant last month after competing with 12 other semi-finalist enterprises in a competition co-organized by iceaddis.

The grant, awarded through the MS4G Fertilizer for Food Open Innovation program, aims to strengthen and mobilize the private sector in food security, water sanitation, and hygiene.

According to Samson Alemu, co-founder and CEO of Thur, the product serves multiple purposes, from fertilization to pest control and soil acidity reduction. He states, “Our biofertilizers have undergone rigorous testing over three years in three different regions. They fortify crops against diseases and droughts, reducing the need for pesticides and making agriculture more resilient to climate change.”

Established in 2021 by three co-founders, Muluken Mulatu, Rahel Selamu, and Samson, Thur Biotech cultivates bacteria found in the soil.

Biofertilizers are substances that contain living microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, or algae, that, when applied to seeds, plant surfaces, or soil, promote growth. Biofertilizers are considered eco-friendly alternatives to chemical fertilizers as they improve soil fertility and crop productivity without causing harm to the environment.

“Continuous use of our fertilizer decreases soil acidity. Our products increase farmers’ productivity by up to thirty percent compared to those using imported fertilizers,” says Samson.

Thur’s biofertilizers, available in liquid and powder forms, are three times more cost-efficient than conventional chemical fertilizers like DAP and urea. “With just 1.5 kg of our biofertilizer, farmers can cultivate one hectare of land for just 1200 birr,” the CEO highlights. “Other fertilizers can cost up to 15,000 birr and require up to 250 kilos per hectare.”

This grant from USAID marks Thur Biotech’s second award. Around a year ago, the startup received 150,000 dollars in grants from the World Food Program Innovation Accelerator program.

In January this year, WaterLife Ethiopia, a local company specializing in waterworks, also received a 192,000-dollar grant from the USAID CATALYZE MS4G program. WaterLife establishes smart water kiosks in urban and peri-urban areas of Ethiopia, providing access to clean and safe drinking water at an affordable price.

In Ethiopia, over two-thirds of the population is engaged in agriculture, and the nation spends a large amount of cash importing fertilizers annually. In 2022 alone, Ethiopia spent one billion dollars to import 12.8 million quintals of fertilizer.

Samson graduated from Addis Ababa Science and Technology University in 2021 with a degree in biotechnology. His thesis paper focused on how farmers can treat acid-infected soil using bacteria produced in labs.

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Daniel, a writer and radio host, has a keen interest in technology. Additionally, he has supported various organizations by enhancing their digital presence in his role as a social media manager.